Why am I doing Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS?
It’s a fair question and one I’m asked more frequently now that the actual ride is upon me.
During 25 years at Dallas Voice, I’ve come in contact with a myriad of remarkable organizations, led by able people who are doing great work that deserves support. So why does Lone Star Ride beckon me personally?
In the opening installment of Lone Star Ride Journal, I gave a little history. In 1998, my business partner Don Ritz organized a team for the first Texas AIDS Ride and set out training for the weeklong ride. Ultimately, Don’s health failed him and kept him off the bike. The team rode on without their leader.
In 2001, Don lost his battle with HIV, as have six other Dallas Voice staff members. The obvious and simple answer is that I am finishing Don’s ride and doing it in memory of those seven.
While that is the set of circumstances that guided my thinking and helped me decide which effort to support as Dallas Voice’s 25th anniversary service project, it is not the real answer.
Why you ride is really much different, much deeper than how you decided to ride.
The name on my mind most often the last few weeks of the summer training season does not appear on that list of seven Dallas Voice staffers. He never worked for the paper. Yet he made starting it possible, or at least he made possible any chance that I would be a part of it. The name is Tim Barnes.
In 1984, when Don Ritz, William Marberry and I were debating whether or not to launch a Dallas-owned and -managed gay community newspaper, Tim Barnes and I were roommates and best friends. After long discussions with my potential business partners, I was stubbornly reluctant to commit to joining the paper.
Not because there wasn’t a need. Not because I assumed that the business had no chance of success. My reluctance had a much more practical basis.
I was flat broke. I saw no means to survive financially until the business generated enough revenue to allow the partners to draw any income.
How long would that take? Three months? Six months? A year? How would I afford to live?
I was going to pass on the gay media gig and "get a real job." But Tim kept pushing me to join the shaky start-up.
Tim insisted, telling me, "You should do this. You can do this. I’ll help you." He did exactly that.
For more than six months Tim paid my rent and the utilities, fed me and put gas in my car so I could go to work. He enabled me to join an enterprise in which he believed I would flourish and his friend would find success.
On his desk, he kept a note pad in which he printed small, crisp lines of household expenses with each roommate’s share totaled in neat columns. Little by little, I repaid him the money listed on my side of the ledger.
Ultimately, on the balance sheet of life, that kind of debt can never be fulfilled. It is ongoing.
Without Tim’s help and belief in me, my life would certainly have taken a different path. It is impossible to imagine its direction.
Tim Barnes lost his battle with AIDS in 1992.
In multiple ways, he was lucky for a man living with HIV. He had a good roof over his head, a longtime partner, a family who participated in his care, excellent insurance, quality health care and even disability income. Yet all those advantages could not save him.
I no longer have the opportunity to make a difference in Tim’s life, a soul who made such a big difference in mine. I must look for other ways to repay his generosity.
Many people living with HIV and AIDS do not have the support or services that were afforded Tim. They are in need. Many are in desperate need.
By supporting the programs of AIDS Outreach Center of Tarrant County, AIDS Services of Dallas and Resource Center Dallas, the three beneficiaries of Lone Star Ride, I have the opportunity to make some difference in many lives.
The question I ask myself most often is, "What have I learned?" while being a part of this amazing event. Again, there are the simple and obvious answers. For one, I learned that a beginning rider, who thinks he is going to "attack the hills" and win, is delusional. Second, if you do not unclamp your biking shoes from the pedals when you stop, you will fall over. Every time.
The deeper answer is that the easiest road is not the most satisfying route. Explore beyond the familiar horizon. Take risks. Push yourself.
This week, after my final training ride, I went to Restland Memorial Park and visited my friend, Timothy Craig Barnes, January 24, 1954 â€“ January 19, 1992. I shared with Tim my experiences over the summer — riding for hours on tiny country roads shaded in a tunnel of trees, marveling at the colony of Green Mexican Parrots feeding along the shore of White Rock Lake, laughing with an entire new group of friends whose lively spirits have re-fired my own.
I shared with him my pride in Team Dallas Voice riders and crew who have braved the heat, the sweat, the miles and miles and, most importantly, the fundraising, which is the ultimate marker for this ride’s success.
To Tim, I confided that at times I’ve doubted I could really pull it all off — bike 168 miles in two days, lead a team, raise the money.
He just smiled and said, "You can do this."
And so I ride.
Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS is Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 26-27. For more information, see Page 9. To donate, go online to LoneStarRide.org.
• Dallas Voice staff lost to AIDS
• Rex Ackerman, gossip columnist
• David Armstrong, art director
• John Bode, art director
• Howie Daire, advice columnist
• Don Ritz, founding partner
• Tim Self, account manager
• Steve Tracy, sports columnist
• Dennis Vercher, senior editor
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 24, 2009.